It’s October of 2017. Mickey Callaway, Cleveland Indians pitching coach and universally regarded hot managerial prospect, has been scooped up by the New York Mets to serve as the franchise’s first new skipper since Terry Collins took over seven years before. He’ll be a breath of fresh air, we were told. He’s analytically savvy, we were told. He communicates brilliantly, we surmised.
It’s April of 2018. Mickey Callaway has the Mets at 11-1, 12-2. The Mets have never been 11-1 or 12-2. This guy really does know what he’s doing, it was fair of us to say.
It’s September of 2019. Mickey Callaway has brought the Mets home on an incredibly strong second half. They won 46 of their final 71 games. They contended for the playoffs. They nurtured several key players who came up to stay under Callaway. We as Mets fans finished the season far more excited about starting the next season than we were when the Mets finished their last season before Callaway.
It’s October of 2019. Mickey Callaway has been “relieved of his duties ,” as a press release that praises him for his “consistent work ethic and dedication” puts it. The hot start of 2018 and the sizzling second half of 2019 are not specifically mentioned. Nor, out of politeness and human resources protocol, are the chunks of Callaway’s tenure that can’t be cherry-picked and held at a favorable angle to make them look sharp.
Mickey Callaway’s Mets of 2018 and 2019 won a couple more games than they lost overall. They featured the consensus best pitcher in the National League across that two-year span and the most momentous rookie season the franchise has ever seen in the second year. They also encompassed a ballclub that evinced enthusiasm in every way that seemed to matter. “Never say die” wasn’t merely a cliché with Callaway’s teams. They refused to give up even when their fans gave up on them multiple times.
Ownership, management, whoever makes the decisions gave up on Callaway. We gave up on Callaway. We acknowledge the positive results around Callaway while not losing sight that even with a composite record above .500, the overall picture never seemed particularly positive. Mickey could be positive. He projected a relentlessly positive attitude, which is probably more important than we realize. He also endured difficulties with the nuts-and-bolts aspects of managing baseball games, which was probably more important than those who signed off on his hiring in October of 2017 realized. He was a disaster explaining ballgames. Also important. You manage people, you manage games, you manage expectations. You gotta do all of it pretty well to manage a third season when neither of your first two seasons yielded the fully desired results. Great moments, great segments, yes, but without promise that what was lacking was going to be filled in adequately to advance.
As a human being, I’m sorry to see Mickey Callaway relieved of his duties. As a human being, I’m sorry to see most people relieved of their duties. As a Mets fan, I appreciate the good parts but can’t shake the overwhelming effect of the less good parts. Nether could those making the decisions.
In October of 2019, the Mets are again looking for a manager. Good luck to all of us again.